DoS Press Briefing – Friday, Oct 15th. Ned Price, the Department of State spokesperson, does another fine job of providing little to no information about the status of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans stranded in Afghanistan but at the same time doing his best to make the State Department look like they are on top of things. Some of his quotes from the most recent press briefing:
Qatar Airways Chartered Flights. When questioned on recent Qatar Airways flights leaving Kabul, Ned Price doesn’t provide a number of AMCITs or LPRs on the Qatar Airways flight on October 11th, nor does he provide an explanation why there were no Americans on the October 14th flight. He reverts to how many DoS departures has ‘facilitated’ since August 31st.
“Most recently, there was a charter flight with Americans on board on October 11th. It was a Qatar Airways charter flight. In total, at least 129 U.S. citizens and 115 lawful permanent residents have departed Afghanistan with our assistance since August 31st. That is to say these departures were facilitated by the United States either with a charter flight or, in some cases, an overland transfer.“
Escape and Resettlement
A Long Stay. Some Afghans who were evacuated from Afghanistan may have a long winter on the eight military bases where they are currently housed. The U.S. effort to resettle Afghan refugees is expected to take longer than anticipated due to housing, logistical, and other constraints. The measle scare set back the effort by weeks and now the realization is setting in that the housing shortage is going to be a big factor. Some Afghans will find that places like Fort McCoy or Fort Pickett will be their home this coming 2022. “U.S. Afghan Resettlements Slowed by Housing Shortage, Old Technology”, The Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2021.
Asma – Now in America. An eight-year-old girl and her family attempted several times to get onto Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) during the desperate days of August 2021. Her father had been killed by the Taliban for working with the Americans. Asma was badly burned while outside of Abbey Gate by a tear gas cannister that set fire to her dress. Pictures of her injuries prompted U.S. military veterans to spring into action to rescue her and her family. Eventually a lone Special Forces operative drove into Kabul meeting the family at a designated location in the city. They were taken to the CIA’s Eagle Base just north of the airport. Asma received medical treatment there and then the family was whisked to HIKA on a chopper, onto to a plane, and are now at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico awaiting resettlement in the United States. “How 3 Strangers a World Away Came to the Rescue of a Badly Burned Afghan Girl”, The New York Times, October 16, 2021.
An Interpreter’s Escape Story. There are thousands of stories of how Afghans who worked for the Americans during the country’s 20-year long involvement in the Afghan conflict escaped death from the Taliban. Many were saved due to the efforts of former and current members of the U.S. military working phones and computers from their kitchen table or home office back in the United States. “The Road Out of Afghanistan”, Deseret News, October 3, 2021.
Humanitarian Crisis Unfolding. Thousands of Afghans have been displaced from other parts of the country by recent fighting. Still others are on the run evading capture and execution by the Taliban because they were an interpreter for U.S. forces or served in elite Afghan SOF units. “Hungry and shivering, Kabul displaced brace for bleak winter”, UNHCR, October 15, 2021.
Selling Children. The United Nations is warning that a significant number of people in Afghanistan won’t have enough to eat this winter. There are already reports of Afghan children dying of hunger. Some families are so desperate they are selling their children. “As Afghanistan Sinks into Destitution, Some Sell Children to Survive”, The Wall Street Journal, October 16, 2021. (subscription). See also “Desperate Afghan parents are selling their kids to pay off debt as poverty levels deepen following Taliban takeover”, Buisness Insider, October 16, 2021. (a concise version of the WSJ story).
Security, Development, Analysis, and More
Afghan Women, Rights, and U.S. Involvement. The United States spent considerable human and monetary capital on advancing the rights of women in Afghanistan. It had a considerable number of roadblocks in its way – so it has a mixed record of achievement. Megan K. Stack provides an interesting perspective on the topic in “The Inconsistency of American Feminism in the Muslim World”, The New Yorker, October 7, 2021.
Uzbek – Afghan Talks. the Taliban met with senior officials of Uzbekistan to discuss cooperation in trade, border security, and humanitarian aid. The talks took place in the border town of Termiz on Saturday, October 16, 2021. “Uzbekistan Holds Talks With Taliban On Trade, Energy, Railway Projects”, Gandhara, October 17, 2021.
Turkey: Assistance but No Recognition. On October 14th, Turkish officials met with the foreign minister of Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government. Turkey is asking the international community to be more flexible with the frozen financial assets of Afghanistan. They warn that the freezing of the assets is contributing to an economic crisis in Afghanistan which will lead to even more Afghan refugees transiting Turkey and heading to the social welfare systems of northern Europe. “Turkey Says It Won’t Recognize Taliban Rule in Afghanistan”, Gandara, October 14, 2021.
Photo: A group of Afghan families were relocated from Kosovo to Norway in October 2021 to begin their new life on Scandinvian Airlines. (NATO Twitter video)